“Lesser” Saints

All Saints’ Day

By Ken Asel

A Reading from 2 Esdras 2:42-47

42 I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude that I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. 43 In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. 44 Then I asked an angel, “Who are these, my lord?” 45 He answered and said to me, “These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God. Now they are being crowned, and receive palms.” 46 Then I said to the angel, “Who is that young man who is placing crowns on them and putting palms in their hands?” 47 He answered and said to me, “He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.” So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord.


All Saints’ Day is an important occasion in the Christian Church. It dates in Western practice to the 9th century in the Atlantic Isles and was adopted by the Latin Church approximately 100 years later. As a child in parochial school, we were taught that there are so many saints that there were simply not enough days in the year to honor everyone, so All Saints’ Day was to include everyone, including saints “not great enough” for their own special days of remembrance. That last part never set well with me.

The three-day celebration of All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls was certainly established to recognize the faithful witnesses to Christ and his Church, however “greater” or “lesser” they might be in his kingdom. They are days of joy and honor characterized by festivals and celebration. Each day has a unique character. Halloween was begun as a way to face what frightens: “goolies and beastees and things things that go bump in the night.” All Saints was designed as a day of intercession.

My father named me Kenneth, an Irish saint of the 5th century also known as Chainnech, and one of the most popular Celtic saints in Scotland. On All Saints we recognize faithful examples of devotion, particularly in local areas and among less broadly-known saints of the Church. Today we remember these more “local” saints, offering our intercessions for them and asking for theirs, as we seek together the divine favor and blessing across the boundaries of death.

J. Philip Newell, a Scottish presbyter of the Church of Scotland, expresses this kind of prayer faithfully:

O God of new beginnings, who brings light out of night’s darkness and fresh green out of the hard winter earth, there is a barren land between us as people and as nations this day. There are empty stretches of soul within us. Give us eyes to see new dawnings of promise. Give us ears to hear fresh soundings of birth. (Celtic Treasure, 2005)

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming.  Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and reside on the Front Range.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. John’s Church, Savannah, Ga.
The Diocese of Gwagwalada (Church of Nigeria)


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